Musicology of the "Nascent State"

If I were young and energetic I would, for example, or if I had a magic wand, I would try to convince my colleagues to develop a “musicology of the nascent state” or “genesis musicology”. That is because I'm fascinated by the origins, by where and how do thing have their beginning. New genres and styles appear all the time, but their “nascent stage” never gets observed, documented and studied in real time. When Punk Rock began to make itself visible, no music scholars were rushing on site to witness what was happening. British Dub-Step is by now about twenty years old, and little is known about it in scholarly terms; and it already is too late to gain a first hand understanding of its very beginnings.

We know, of course, the historical reasons why musicologists did not rush to New Orleans when Jazz was in the cradle. Back then they were affected by the highbrow bias; by residual Romantic attitudes about how art-work prove to be such when they withstand the test of time. But now that attitudes have changed, it is too bad that the birth of new traditions, genres or styles should occur unnoticed. I wish there were a small community of scholars, ready to be dispatched to intercept, new forms of musicking whenever and wherever they may be happening. And even if eventually nothing really conspicuous develops, where and when it had seemed likely to, that would be worth understanding just as much. The story of failed styles, genres or traditions could tell us as just as much about cultural dynamics as that of successful ones. In sum, I wish musicology could be ... where things happen.